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DEARBORN, Mich. — Since the day Brad Keselowski won NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series championship in November, he’s gone through a rapid circuit of events.
One day, he’s reading off the Top Ten List on “Late Night with David Letterman.”
Another day, he’s mingling with members of the Detroit Pistons. Or he’s spinning some of his favorite songs on a Charlotte, N.C., radio station.
Since Keselowski clinched the Sprint Cup championship Nov. 18 at the Ford EcoBoost 400, he’s seemingly cultivated a rock-star persona.
The Michigan Senate honored Keselowski with resolution Thursday morning in Lansing, and the Michigan governor’s office proclaimed Feb. 2 as “Brad Keselowski Day.” In Dearborn, Keselowski spoke to auto racing fans at the Henry Ford’s Anderson Theater.
But Thursday at the Henry Ford, the first Michigan-born driver to win the Sprint Cup title insisted he’s gotten the chance to reflect, not just on the entire experience but on his racing roots.
“When I was in Michigan and my family had its own race teams, they were on the third tier of racing, and Sprint Cup was on the first tier,” Keselowski said. “My vision was kind of limited to being successful on that third tier. That’s all I knew. Through whatever chain of events, positive or negative, and at the time they seemed negative but now they’re positive, that didn’t work out. My family’s business fell apart. It was a catalyst for a chain of events that got me to be here, now, and have the opportunities that have lead to it. There’s been a lot of self reflection about that, how sometimes you have to dream big.”
Then, Keselowski admitted something.
“I didn’t even dream this big.”
While Keselowski has become one of NASCAR’s breakthrough stars, Roger Curtis, the president of Michigan International Speedway, said Keselowski hasn’t abandoned the personality he brought to NASCAR — a straight shooter with a sense of humor and an understanding of where he’s come from.
“He’s still Brad,” said Curtis, who accompanied Keselowski on the day-long junket to promote the 2013 events at the Brooklyn, Mich., speedway. “He’s taken advantage of the opportunities that have been afforded to him through winning the championship. Certainly, I expect him to do that, and I know he’s enjoying it.”
During a question-and-answer session, Keselowski touched on one of the prominent topics entering the 2013 Sprint Cup season — the implementation of the Gen-6, a newly designed stock car, and how drivers would adjust to a new model.
“From my perspective, I think you’re going to see a lot of crazy races,” Keselowski said.
He discussed his love of history — and explained that Henry Ford founded and financed Ford Motor Company with his auto racing winnings.
He even addressed the romance between drivers Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., in relation to two goals he had set: dating a celebrity and buying a tank.
“Ricky and Danica beat me to it,” Keselowski quipped. “Now if Ricky buys a tank …”
But beyond the persona, Curtis also notes Keselowski’s cognizance of the holistic aspect of stock-car racing.
“He understands the bigger picture,” Curtis said. “He’s not just in the Miller Lite Ford, driving it. He has a bigger picture of the sport. He has the understanding of sponsorships, of promotions, of TV, of the fans. I think it’s great that someone that age and that new to the sport grasped that.”
NOTES: Curtis announced that tickets for the Quicken Loans 400 on June 16 and the Pure Michigan 400 on Aug. 18 at MIS will go on sale today. …Quicken Loans announced Thursday it will sponsor Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman and Newman-Haas racing for 18 races this season. … The Sprint Cup Series opens its season Feb. 16 with The Sprint Unlimited, a 75-lap, non-points race at Daytona International Speedway, eight days before the Daytona 500.